Celebrated activist takes Hall of Fame drawing in stride

These sketches by Janice McDonald of Puslinch, Wellington County, depict John Curtis and Dianne Harkin, who were to be formally inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame this month.

Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — COVID-19 may have forced cancellation of the 2020 induction ceremony into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame but the other traditional pieces of the recognition are falling into place.

That includes completion of personalized drawings of this year’s four inductees — including two from Eastern Ontario — to be framed, accompanied with a biography, and added to the collection of some 230 members kept in the Hall relocated in 2016 to 100 Stone Road, Guelph. The sketches are by Janice McDonald of Puslinch, Wellington County.

A gala affair, this year’s induction was set for June 14 at Country Heritage Park, Milton. Nothing will be done online to replace it; usually accompanying the induction, the annual meeting of the Hall of Fame Association will be held via conference call Sept. 11.

Above, Dianne Harkin. Courtesy photo

Founder in 1975 of the Ontario chapter of Women for the Survival of Agriculture and author of a book about the accomplishment, Dianne Harkin was to be formally inducted June 14 along with former Kemptville College director the late John Curtis, now deceased, who’s credited with establishing corn as a major Eastern Ontario field crop.

From Western Ontario, the late Murray Mills whose legacy is the ongoing development of harvester combines, and Brian Little credited for his work in agricultural education, finance and fundraising, complete the foursome.

Isolating at her farm house north of Winchester, Harkin wasn’t disappointed when she learned the induction ceremony was cancelled due to COVID-19. Although some of those involved might have been looking forward to the ceremony as a much-needed post-COVID break if authorities permitted it, soon to be 86 Harkin said she never planned to attend.

“My general health — nothing to do with COVID — won’t allow me to spend more than an hour at a time in the car,” she observed, adding she’s quite proud without the party of the Hall of Fame honour and a copy of the sketch, which recently arrived at her door.

Harkin is faring well during the pandemic, puttering around the house and planning to finalize another book she has in the works, a collection of past articles and columns she intends to title Now What!

Walks along her lane to the mail box and occasional drives help keep her spirits up.

While at her age Harkin realizes she’s in the most vulnerable segment of society, she feels the wide open spaces of farm country help protect her from the potentially deadly virus. As for loneliness, she became used to living on her own following the death of husband Dan eight years ago. Her son John lives in a second house across the farmyard and drops off groceries regularly.

“We keep six feet of separation in place. The hardest part is not being close to the grandkids and great-grandkids. But they drive into the yard and we wave to each other.”

Also a member of the Dundas County Agricultural Hall of Fame, Harkin’s contributions have earned her membership in the Order of Ontario, two terms on the Canadian Advisory Council for the Status of Women, a spot in a Canadian delegation sent to China on a women’s cultural exchange, a Centennial Award, Queen’s Jubilee Award and many other appointments and accolades.

Harkin’s activism sprung from her expecting to be accepted as an individual and full partner to her husband. Instead, she discovered farm women weren’t seen as significant contributors despite the fact they often did more than their share, including raising children, tending to the home, and overseeing finances.

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